LSI 1 Series: Power

Lorraine McCarthy, Counsellor/Coach, Human Synergistics Australia

Power Style is about being in control. Those who have been in Foundation Workshops with me have heard me speak of my own journey with it. It showed itself in my LSI 1 feedback in 1981 soon after my first two children aged 20 months and four months, had died of a hereditary liver disease.

When I saw the red extension during my debrief with Clay Lafferty I felt quite upset. I said to him something like, ‘that’s terrible – I don’t want to be that way’ and he replied, ‘it’s not terrible, it just reflects that you have had some hard things to deal with’. His compassion was very consoling to me and I have never forgotten it. When I see it in others’ profiles I also feel a compassion for the person who has described themselves in this way.

I kept my Power Style for a long time afterwards however, not knowing how to do without it. The feeling of being in control made me feel safe and able to achieve anything – by sheer determination and by myself. It was my primary coping style, resourcing me to have the courage to defy the odds and have two more children. Eventually I was confronted with my ability to ‘get angry easily’, and the effect this had on others and knew I would have to find a way of changing. I believe that when we are ready for change and have that felt need to act, the understanding and the way will come to us. I learned rapidly: that anger is not the first thing we feel. Rather it is a response to hurt and fear: that it was not the deaths of my children that had produced the Power Style but that I had learned it in my first five to seven years of life and slipped into it when times were hard. These two things I explored over a two year period of counselling. My new awareness was that I was worthwhile, that I deserved compassion from myself not relentless urging to be in control no matter what.

When I came to write about this style I thought it would be easy as I have known it so well. In fact it has been the most difficult so far. When I read through the items I was somewhat horrified. Surely I could not have described myself in those terms. There was only one I could readily give myself a 2 for: ‘runs things by self’. This has a big cost. It wears me out. Why would I do this to myself? Another I could give myself a 1 for is ‘bossy’, because my family tells me I am, and unwillingly, in the spirit of honesty I could give myself a 1 for ‘needs to control others’. Because so many of the items in Power are socially undesirable the norming structure means that it doesn’t take much to create an extension. The four I would have gained from the items above would take it out to the 50th percentile.

In looking at the items in terms of how I might have scored myself in 1981 I could possibly have chosen ‘resists suggestions made by others’, ‘little confidence in people’, ‘dogmatic and rigid’, ‘easily offended’, ‘critical of others’, ‘argumentative’ and ‘dominating’. Wow! Not great for others to be on the receiving end. How sad for Lorraine. Believing that she had to do everything and do it on her own. Exhausted and isolated.

Power Style represents a ‘hostile and aggressive’ way to treat ourselves. It leaves little room for creative possibilities and enjoyment. It ignores our innate worth. Why would we do it?

In essence it is a coping style that helps us think we are dealing with what is happening to us. But like all coping styles it doesn’t actually deal with the issue. It masks the issue. The cost to oneself is frustration, anger, lack of acceptance of others and lack of acceptance of self.


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